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Nick Leddy Traded to Red Wings for Richard Panik, 2nd-Round Pick

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Lou Lamoriello found a solution to a difficult problem.

New York Islanders v Washington Capitals
Trading places
Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images

The New York Islanders’ long-sought salary cap and Expansion Draft relief has found an answer with the trade of defenseman Nick Leddy to the Detroit Red Wings for Richard Panik and a second-round pick.

Significantly, the Red Wings will also retain 50% of Panik’s salary. Panik has two seasons remaining on a four-year, $11-million contract ($2.75M AAV) originally signed with the Capitals.

That means Leddy’s $5.5 million cap hit — with one year remaining — goes out the door, and only $1.375 million comes back with the addition of Panik, if the Isles keep him.

The left-shooting winger has bounced around since being drafted by the Lightning in the 2nd round (52nd overall) of the 2009 draft. His peak was scoring 22 goals with Chicago at age 25 and he also has a couple of 14-goal seasons. But now at age 30, he’ll be on his fifth team in five seasons after the Capitals swapped him to the Red Wings this past season to make salary room in the acquisition of Anthony Mantha.

The pick going to the Islanders (52nd overall in this month’s entry draft) was acquired by the Red Wings from the Edmonton Oilers in the trade for forward Andreas Athanasiou in February 2020.

Not knowing all the conditions of a very active NHL trade dialogue ahead of the Expansion Draft, the return and salary retention is more than many expected for Leddy. Looking at NHL rosters and expected protected lists, not many teams were likely looking to add another defenseman that they’d have to protect. That Lou Lamoriello got a potentially usable forward, a decent draft pick, and salary cap relief is a win-win-win at first glance.

Which isn’t to say that the loss of Leddy won’t hurt, especially if the Isles can’t replace him on the roster. He, along with Johnny Boychuk, were fixtures of the Islanders renaissance that began under Garth Snow but took off under Lamoriello and Barry Trotz. Leddy remained a key top-four blueliner for them through the last two conference finals runs. They no doubt hate to lose him.

But the Islanders were — and remain — in a salary cap crunch and were bound to lose someone; indeed, even after this trade they are still likely to lose someone else from their back-to-back conference final squad.

In that context, Leddy was the logical first domino and this return is a pretty good outcome.

New Problem: A D to Expose in the Expansion Draft

This week as Nick Leddy Trade Watch ensued, another factor remained in the background: If the Isles trade Leddy and protect Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech and Scott Mayfield, that means they don’t have an eligible defenseman to leave unprotected under expansion draft rules:

All NHL teams must expose one defenseman and two forwards who are all under contract for 2021-22 and played in at least 27 NHL games last season or 54 NHL games over the last two.

Note: The above totals are adjusted to the prorated numbers, which were changed as a result of the last two pandemic-shortened NHL seasons.

Is that Andy Greene’s music? The veteran unrestricted free agent defenseman wants to keep playing, and part of his performance bonus from last season already applies to next season’s cap. So...maybe?